At a Glance
If you've started considering a new oven purchase, chances are you will be faced with a choice to make, whether to go with a thermal oven or convection oven.
Thermal ovens offer the standard oven modes like bake, broil, and roast.
Convection is fan-forced heat. However, you have brands with fan-assist, True or European Convection, and Dual Convection.
Now, Wolf has invented the VertiCross Convection system employing blowers instead of fans.
In this article, you will learn the several types of convection systems and their differences. Then we will look at how to use a convection oven effectively.
First, let's look at the standard oven.
In a thermal oven, radiant heat is the main heat source used to cook the food. The heat comes from one of two locations: the bake element at the bottom of the oven; and the broil element at the top.
Bake elements provide more BTUs/watts than a broil element, so naturally, there tends to be a higher concentration of heat toward the bottom of the oven.
The majority of this heat ascends from the bake element and moves up and surrounds the food to cook.Short on time? Get our free Wall Oven Buying Guide
What Is Convection?
If you are considering a convection oven, this is a different animal. The term "convection" implies a fan is used to distribute heat evenly within the oven cavity.
In the most basic terms, the fan blows hot air onto the food to facilitate faster cooking and browning; the forced hot air feels more intense, therefore produces faster results.
Convection ovens continuously circulate the heat to mitigate any hot or cold spots. In addition to the fan, convection ovens have a bake element and a broil element, just like thermal ovens.
However, when you start seeing buzz words like "convection fan," "European Convection," "True Convection," "Twin Convection," and "Verticross Convection," this is where the confusion sets in.
Different Types of Convection Ovens
An oven with a "convection fan" is exactly what it implies - an oven with just a fan in the back wall.
This fan does not have a heating element. The fan will assist the movement of the radiant heat throughout the oven cavity. Typically, this is the type of convection system that we see in all-gas ranges.
"True convection" and "European convection" are the same. The convection systems have gone further to include a heating element wrapped around or placed behind the fan.
To use the "true convection" setting would imply using only the cal-rod heating element around the fan and the fan itself; no other heating element would be operating at this time. True convection is only found in electric or dual fuel ovens.
"Twin Convection" is a derivative of True Convection; the only difference is the addition of a second fan.
Most often, they are placed side-by-side horizontally; however, there are a few brands that offer vertical placement. From my experience, two fans don't always offer better performance.
You would think that two fans provide more power or a more controlled airflow. Sometimes their purpose is negated with the vertical convection fans. A second fan sometimes creates a cool wind channel in the middle rack.
Anything baking or cooking on the middle rack ends up lighter in color than the top and bottom racks.
The side-by-side convection system functions a little differently. Air circulates in all corners of the oven, from up and down, plus side to side.
The airflow is more even and consistent in this system, yielding more even results on all racks when multi-rack cooking.
"VertiCross convection" is the newest convection system exclusive to the Wolf M-Series. The VertiCross convection system consists of two vertical blower fans located at the back corners of the oven.
Removing the fans from the traditional setting (center back wall) allowed for a curved back wall, creating more usable space.
The columnar fans span from the top of the oven to the very bottom, allowing total airflow front to back and side to side. The heating elements have also been reconfigured to run parallel with the fans creating that "True Convection" system.
When and How to Use Convection
Questions I frequently get asked are, "When do I use convection?" and "What is convection cooking good for?"
In the restaurant industry, convection ovens are most often the only ovens used because of their performance.
You can use the convection setting for cooking almost anything, and it doesn't matter if it's one pan or three pans.
The only time you will ever encounter a problem is when you are baking something leavened by egg whites. Whipping egg whites creates a structure that lends itself to the height of the baked product.
Using a convection system will agitate the whipped egg structure, causing it to collapse or cave in during the baking process. Forget about using convection for sponge cakes, soufflés, angel food cakes, and other similar baked goods.
How Do Different Types of Convection Ovens Perform?
To answer this question, I tested three different convection systems, the Thermador single convection, Miele dual side-by-side, and the Wolf Verticross convection (M-Series).
I made three items on the three oven racks in all three ovens at the same time. In the middle, I started with Cornish Hens, followed by Yukon gold potatoes on the top rack, then sugar cookies on the bottom rack.
I started by cooking these in each oven on the center rack with a probe at Convection 425 F for the first 10 minutes. Then I dropped the temperature to Convection 375 F for the next 20 minutes, then Convection 325 F for the last 10 minutes.
In this scenario, the Cornish Hen roasted in the Miele oven achieved the best results. It had the most even overall brown color.
The potatoes were roasted on the top rack in each oven, simultaneously with the Cornish hens. They all got a significant amount of color.
However, the potatoes from the Thermador oven had the most color and texture.
Second to that was Miele, and last was Wolf. All three ovens produced satisfactory results, but the Miele was slightly better in terms of consistency.
As for the sugar cookies, they were all baked on the bottom rack for the last 12 minutes as the Cornish Hens and potatoes were finishing up.
The cookies from the Wolf VertiCross Convection got the most color on the bottom rack, followed by the Thermador, which was the most even, and last were the cookies from Miele, which were the lightest.
In this scenario. The Thermador produces the best results for an item baked on the bottom rack while simultaneously cooking other items.
Miele Convection Oven Results
If I had to rank based on all of these results, I would give the Miele (M-Touch) side-by-side convection the top spot. The color from top to bottom was the most consistent.
The wireless probe is also handy because you don't have to plug it into a hot oven when cooking your proteins.
Miele also gives the most cooking modes and functions, along with an option to have the oven plumbed for a manual burst of steam while your food is cooking.
Thermador Convection Oven Results
Thermador would have the second spot in this ranking order.
The True Convection mode gives an excellent blast of circulated heat in the oven, but it's not as consistent as the Miele.
Thermador is always my recommendation for those that lean more towards savory cooking, like roasts and vegetables, versus someone who does a mix of both savory and pastry.
Wolf Convection Oven Results
Wolf (M-Series) is coming in at a third place.
The Cornish Hens that roasted on the middle rack got the least amount of color.
The potatoes on the top rack were cooked well, but the cookies on the bottom rack browned the most, giving this oven the most inconsistent results.
Conclusion From Cooking Test
It's difficult to rank three excellent quality appliances because everyone's cooking needs at home vary.
We are really splitting hairs when it comes down to the differences in the cooking results here because all did a satisfactory job.
It comes down to what you cook at home.
If roasting proteins and vegetables are more important to you, then the Thermador makes more sense out of the three.
The Miele is great for both savory and pastry, and the Wolf M-series, is slightly more delicate.
Additionally, some brands offer different convection systems that were not tested here, like the Wolf E-Series single convection. In the past, that has proven to be more consistent in cooking tests over the M-Series VertiCross.
Key Differences Between Convection Systems
Consequently, you will notice the biggest difference in multi-rack baking/cooking and with large roasts; this is where convection cooking shines.
You may not notice a difference with one tray of cookies, but when there are three cookies in the oven, rest assured they will all come out even in color.
With large roasts, the differences will be reduced cook time, a crisper sear, and even browning.
Should You Buy a Convection Oven?
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As for recommendations, with any type of Convection, you can't go wrong. It just depends on the level of precision you want.
If you tend to do a lot of roasting of proteins and vegetables, a single convection fan, whether true Convection or not, most often will suffice.
If you bake a lot, then consider a "true convection" system.
The dry heat from an electric oven will yield better baking results. As for true Convection with dual fans, I like the vertically placed fans. I feel they can cook more evenly throughout.
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Saba is the resident Chef at Yale. She will teach you how to use your new oven, cooktop, or range. She is skilled in every new feature, including steam, induction, convection of all types, air frying, and sous vide. Saba is also the reigning Chopped Grand Champion crowned by Martha Stewart herself. Saba is incredibly versatile with all different types of cuisine. After just one session with her, you will be a better chef.
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